Industry Headlines / NDT

Thermal Imager Saves Time and Costs After Hurricane Ike

February 20, 2009
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West Houston, TX- A portable thermal imager, rented from Ashtead Technology Rentals, has enabled a rapid and effective inspection of buildings in the Galveston area following Hurricane Ike.

Catherine McLain, the Houston Industrial Hygienist Department Manager for ATC Associates, needed to conduct inspections in twenty-five multi-story retail buildings and historic hotels and approached Ashtead with her requirement for an imager sensitive enough to detect the smallest amounts of water damage.

The storm had devastated parts of the Texas Gulf Coast region and swept through Houston with great force, damaging large buildings, shattering windows and in some cases separating homes from their foundations.

Since time is of the essence when dealing with water damage, remediation teams were on site simultaneously with ATC, waiting on the results of their findings in order to determine the best approach for treating the affected areas before caustic mold and microbes could develop. Normally, affected areas are surveyed with a thermal imager, which then involves a trip back to the office for downloading of the data and compilation into a report. This job, however, required a compressed time frame and ATC’s client had actually requested that a more efficient method be used as the primary inspection tool to eliminate any delays in the clean-up effort.

Tori Foerste, Operations Manager for the West Houston office of Ashtead Technology Rentals, immediately recommended the most appropriate imager for the job. She said, "It would need to be compact, highly rugged and optimized for building inspection applications; as soon as Catherine contacted me and described the job, I knew the imager that would be perfect for her application. Without hesitation we purchased as many units as she required.”

Commenting on the Ashtead service, McLain said, "Tori and her team's quick response, renting us the required infrared cameras and providing basic training, allowed ATC to mobilize immediately.”

"The thermal imagers were able to provide images in the field, which meant that the clean-up crew was able to get to work before a bad situation developed into a hazardous one. The high quality of the equipment made our job extremely efficient and resulted in a very successful project completion in less time than the client anticipated. We will definitely continue to use Ashtead’s rental equipment," reports McLain, adding, "the imagers were so efficient, in fact, that the time frame for inspecting the twenty-five buildings was reduced from the expected seven weeks down to job completion in just two."

The willingness to purchase equipment that precisely meets customers' needs (rather than just supplying whatever is on the shelf) is a unique feature of Ashtead's business philosophy and is what sets them apart from many of the other rental companies in the industry.

Tori Foerste expressed her satisfaction with the project, commenting “We recommended these imagers because they are able to take both infrared images and normal photographs, and because of their ability to record voice annotations simultaneously with the captured images, ensuring that every detail gets thoroughly documented in the site report.”

Subtle temperature variances that result from cooling due to evaporation from moist surfaces enable inspectors to identify possible water damage. Such temperature differences can be detected remotely by the thermal imager and shown in different colors on the instrument's display.

Once the suspect areas are identified, additional instruments such as a moisture meters, also available for rent from Ashtead, may be used to verify the readings in order to differentiate between heat loss due to insufficient insulation, and cool readings resulting from actual water damage. Further invasive methods may also be required, such as an examination behind the surface material with a borescope; a remote visual inspection instrument also stocked for rent by Ashtead.

As a result of the cost and time savings that were achieved by ATC Associates, word quickly spread among contractors in the Galveston area and Tori Foerste reports a high demand for the new imagers.

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